Why is the brain stem called the lizard brain?

The lizard brain is a part of our brains that controls instinctive behaviors. It also helps us fight or flee from danger. But most importantly, it makes us feel fear and anxiety.

Most people believe that the lizard brain is just a myth. They think we only have two parts of our brains, the rational and emotional.

But the truth is that we have three pieces of our brain: the reptilian brain, the limbic system, and the neocortex.

The reptilian brain is accountable for basic survival instincts such as breathing, eating, sleeping, and sex.

The limbic system is accountable for emotions and feelings.

And the neocortex is responsible for thinking and reasoning.

We all have these three parts of our brain, but how we use each part varies depending on age, gender, culture, and environment.

For example, young children rely heavily on the limbic system, while older adults rely heavily on the neocortex.

This article discusses why the brain stem is called the lizard brain. We also talk about how it relates to our health and what you can do to improve your health by using the power of your mind.

Let's start...


Lizard Brain vs Reptilian Brain
Lizard Brain vs Reptilian Brain
Lizard Brain vs Reptilian Brain
lizard brain anxiety
called the emotional brain
lizard part of the brain

The Brain Stem: The Lizard Brain

The human brain has several vital functions, one of which is controlling our emotions. It does this by controlling the fight or flight response, which is why we are often described as having two brains. On the one hand, we have a rational brain that controls our thinking. On the other hand, we have an emotional brain that controls our feelings.

This second brain, the emotional brain, is where the 'lizard brain' comes in. It is this primitive part of the brain that is responsible for instinctive behavior, and it also makes us feel fear when we see something scary.

reptilian brain anxiety
what part of the brain controls essential survival functions such as breathing and heartbeat
what part of the brain controls survival instincts

The Brain Stem Is Called the Lizard Brain Because It Looks Like One

The brain stem is often called the lizard brain because it looks very similar to the reptilian brain found in reptiles. Some scientists believe that the brain stem evolved from the reptile brain.

what part of the brain stem controls heartbeat and breathing
which parts of the brain constitutes the emotional brain known as the limbic system
called the emotional brain

The Brain Stem Controls Basic Human Functions

The brain stem is involved with essential functions such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, sleeping, wakefulness, eating, sex drive, and even pain perception.

These functions involve coordinating different body parts, requiring communication between these areas and the brain stem.

In addition, the brain stem helps regulate the autonomic nervous system (the nerves that run through your body without you consciously being aware of them). It is also connected to the spinal cord.

lizard brain anxiety
lizard brain anxiety
lizard brain anxiety

The Brain Stem Contains the Nucleus Tractus solitarius

The nucleus tractus solitaries (NTS) is a small region located at the base of the brainstem.

It contains many nerve cells that communicate with other areas of the brain. One of its main jobs is to detect changes in oxygen levels in the blood.

When the level drops below average, the NTS sends signals to the rest of the brain to increase respiration and heartbeat.

If the level rises above average, the NTS will send alerts to reduce respiration and heartbeat.

The Brain Stem Contributes to Our Emotions

The brain stem is also involved with our emotions. It receives information from the limbic system, the area of the brain associated with emotion. The brain stem sends this information to the hypothalamus, the endocrine system's center. The hypothalamus secretes hormones into the bloodstream, including adrenaline and cortisol, which help prepare the body for action.

In addition, the brain stem regulates the sympathetic nervous system (the nerves in charge of the fight-or-flight response). When the brain stem senses danger, it stimulates the adrenal glands to release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

This causes the muscles to tense up, the pupils dilate, and the heart to beat faster. All of these responses make sense if you think about how dangerous a situation might be.

For example, suppose someone is pointing a gun at you...

you would want to get away quickly. However, if you were just walking down the street minding your own business, you wouldn't need to worry about running away.

lizard brain limbic system
lizard brain limbic system
lizard brain

The Brain Stem Has Its Own Consciousness

As well as regulating our emotions, the brain stem also has consciousness. We can tell whether an animal is awake or asleep because the brain stem sends messages to the thalamus, which then tells the cortex.

The cortex is the area of the cerebral hemispheres that deals with conscious thought.

So, if the brain stem does not receive any sensory input, it must be asleep.

Similarly, if the cortex does not accept sensory information, it must be unconscious.

The Brain Stem Is Responsible for Pain Perception

The brain stem is responsible for sending signals to the thalamus when we are experiencing pain.

The thalamus transmits this signal to the cortex, interpreted as "pain."

Because the brain stem is part of the autonomic nervous system...

it also controls the amount of pain we feel.

If the brain stem is damaged, we may experience more intense pain than usual.

lizard brain
lizard part of the brain
reptilian brain anxiety

The Brain Stem and the Limbic System

The brain stem is linked to the limbic system through the hypothalamus.

The hypothalamus is also connected to the pituitary gland, which produces hormones such as growth hormone and stimulating thyroid hormone.

These hormones control the development of the brain and the central nervous system.

what part of the brain controls blood pressure heart rate and respiration
what part of the brain controls blood pressure heart rate and respiration
what part of the brain controls essential survival functions such as breathing and heartbeat


In conclusion, the brain stem is often referred to as the lizard brain because of its reptilian nature. This means it's very intuitive and emotional, which is why it's such an essential part of our brains.

When faced with stress, it helps us keep ourselves calm and focused. However, it doesn't mean that the lizard brain is terrible; it's beneficial.

When stressed, our lizard brain kicks in and releases adrenaline, which gives us energy and boosts our immune system.

In turn, this helps us fight off illness and disease.

So instead of letting it control us, let's use it to help us stay strong and healthy.

what part of the brain controls
what part of the brain stem controls heartbeat and breathing
which section of the brain helps regulate heartbeat and respiration

About Harry Heijligers.

Harry Heijligers has been a project manager for more than 25 years and a NLP trainer and mental coach for more than 17 years.

On his website SmartLeadershipHut.com he writes about personal transformation and becoming successful in whatever dream you pursue.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}